Marvin Suggs and the Muppaphone first appeared in The Muppet Show Episode 105, playing "Lady of Spain". In Episode 208, Marvin auditioned with an All-Food Glee Club, singing "Yes, We Have No Bananas". He was back with the Muppaphone in Episode 304, singing "Witch Doctor".
In Episode 311, Kermit interviewed Marvin in a Talk Spot that appeared as a UK Spot. Kermit tells Marvin that he wants to ask him the question that most people ask, and Marvin tells him that the answer is, "Mutual love and respect."
Kermit asks the Muppaphones the question that most people ask: "Does it hurt?" Since Marvin Suggs is right behind them, they nervously answer, "No." When asked if they are the original Muppaphones, Marvin says that he has to replace them every two or three months, since by then they go flat (not off-key; they become two-dimensional). Kermit asks what happens to them after that. "I don't think you want to know,” Marvin replies.
In Episode 315, guest star Lesley Ann Warren was horrified to learn that Marvin was the accompanist in one of her numbers. She accused him of being cruel, because he makes music by hitting live creatures. "Of course they're alive!" he answered. "You can't make music by hitting dead creatures!"
Marvin appeared in multiple films, including The Muppet Movie, where he can be seen gyrating through the theater before the movie starts. He showed up again in Muppets from Space twenty years later. In 2004, Palisades Toys released a Marvin Suggs Action Figure.
|“||I don't recall where Marvin Suggs came from... probably from one of the writer's meetings. But the accent came from my French friend Phillippe Gentry -- I just exaggerated it and made it really annoying. I've always felt Marvin lived in a scuzzy trailer park with his put-upon wife, and he kept the Muppaphones in a cage and would beat them regularly.||”|
In 2006, the puppet was on display at the Jim Henson: Performing Artist exhibit at the University of Maryland. After a twelve year absence, Suggs reappears in The Muppets, performed by Eric Jacobson. He also made a brief appearance in the music video for "The Muppet Show Theme Song," using the band members of OK Go as a Muppaphone.
Although nowhere to be seen, part three of The Muppet Show Comic Book: Family Reunion has "Marvin Suggs and the All-Food Glee Club" listed on a marquee outside the theater.
Forerunners in pop culture
Other comedy skits have involved characters committing cruelty against living creatures for music's sake (a concept that dates back to at least to 1928, when Mickey Mouse yanked piglets' tails to create musical squeals), which in some ways predate Marvin Suggs. In 1957, in a sketch from his radio series (later released as a record), Stan Freberg created Monsieur Toulier and his Tuned Sheep. The French-accented Toulier tied bells to his sheep, and when struck on the head with a shepherd's crook, the sheep would play music (a rendition of "Lullaby of Birdland"). Like Marvin, Toulier chided his sheep individually by name when they were out of synch or tempo.
A similar sketch, with closer parallels in some respects, occurred in a 1969 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus (an episode titled "Sex & Violence"). "Arthur Ewing and His Musical Mice" features Mr. Ewing (played by Terry Jones) beating on tuned mice (in boxes so as to be unseen by the viewer) in his "Mouse-organ" with two mallets, in a rendition of "The Bells of St. Mary". The sketch also appeared in the film And Now For Something Completely Different (1971) with the name changed to "Ken Ewing and His Musical Mice", playing "Three Blind Mice".
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